2015 Employment Law Update & Reminders

The HR Matrix team wishes you a happy new year! With the new year, there are many changes that affect California employers in 2015. Here is a snapshot of the most prominent changes, along with some important reminders. If you have concerns regarding these new laws or questions regarding compliance with state and federal employment laws, we are here to help. Contact Jennifer Scott at 707-526-0877 x16 or via email to jennifer at thehrmatrix.com if you have any questions or need support.

BENEFITS

Benefits Waiting Periods: new legislation eliminates the relatively new California 60-day waiting period for health benefits eligibility and relies instead on the federal ACA 90-day requirement. Your broker can advise how and when your plan will be affected. Most employers will be affected when their plans renew in 2015. At that time you will need to update your handbook and practices to reflect the 90-day waiting period.

Paid Sick Leave: A new law that goes into effect July 1, 2015 requires California employers to provide paid sick leave to all employees who work more than 30 days in a year, including part-time and temporary employees on the employer’s payroll. There are three ways to comply with this law: 1) accrue one hour sick leave for every 30 hours worked; 2) front-load 24 hours of sick leave at the beginning of each year, and 3) have a policy in place that meets or exceeds the minimum requirements of the law. If employers choose to accrue, they may limit the use of sick leave to 24 hours per year and may cap unused leave at 48 hours. Note: this sick leave does not need to be paid out at time of termination. Our recommendation is to consider Option 1 or 3, providing paid sick leave on an accrual basis.

Kin Care: Kin Care, the California law that allows employees to use half of their annual sick leave for ‘kin’, will now include grandparents, grandchildren and siblings as well as the usual parents, children and spouses/DP’s. This goes into effect with the new sick leave requirement above.

Individual Healthcare Premium Reimbursements in lieu of an Employer Group Health Plan: Employers may no longer make payments (taxable or otherwise) to help employees pay for their own individual health insurance policies. These payments now fall under the category of an actual health plan and are subject to all the provisions thereof. Alternatives include simply stopping the payments, obtaining group coverage for employees, and providing taxable wages or bonuses in place of premium assistance. Talk with your health insurance broker for further details. You will also want to consider tax consequences in the event you decide to start a new group plan and/or offer a paid bonus. With any of these options, you also need to consider disparate impact and ensure the offerings are provided to everyone that meets eligibility requirements.

FMLA changes for same-sex couples: The jury is still out on this one, however the following is in effect for the moment: The current FMLA regulatory definition of spouse is “a husband or wife as defined or recognized under State law for purposes of marriage in the State where the employee resides, including common law marriage in States where it is recognized.” Under this current definition of spouse, eligible employees may take FMLA leave to care for a same-sex spouse only if they reside in a State that recognizes same-sex marriage (as California does at this time).

HR COMPLIANCE

Harassment Training: CA employers with more than 50 employees must provide biannual harassment training to supervisors. The 50 employee count includes part-time, temporary, agency and independent contractors who worked for 20 consecutive weeks. A new law in effect 1/1/15 requires the training to include training for prevention of abusive or bullying behavior. It doesn’t make that behavior illegal (unless it is directed at a protected class). In addition, farm labor contractors must comply with new harassment training requirements for supervisors and employees. The HR Matrix offers AB1825 compliant Supervisor Harassment onsite training sessions. Contact us to arrange an onsite training.

“Bring your own device” BYOD policies – Recent court rulings in California clarify that employers must reimburse employees for subscription plan costs when employees use their own devices for work (e.g., cell phones, tablets). This rule applies even if the plans feature unlimited minutes. The employer must make a reasonable contribution to the employee. While there is no set amount, we frequently see $25-40 per month reimbursement amounts.

Required Employer Posters – All employers will need to update posters in January 2015 to be in compliance with the new sick leave and minimum wage laws. We recommend using the CA Chamber of Commerce All-in-one posters. Remember that you must have posters at each place of business, and in a language other than English if you have employees who speak another language. Also, CA Wage Orders have been updated and this is a separate required posting. You can download here and post with your other posters.  https://www.dir.ca.gov/iwc/wageorderindustries.htm

LEGAL UPDATES

Harassment/Discrimination Protections Expanded: The new law now includes protection to unpaid interns, volunteers and people in apprenticeship training programs. Also, employees receiving public assistance (Medi-Cal) are protected from discrimination and retaliation. [To do: ensure all your supervisors and staff are aware of your zero-tolerance harassment policy.]

Whistleblower Law Expanded: The Whistleblower Law was expanded to protect an employee who complains internally to a person with authority over the employee or another employee who has the authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation.

Immigrant Protections: Employers may not discriminate against immigrants by threatening to file a claim or filing a false claim with a state or federal agency. In addition, employers may not discriminate or retaliate against an employee who updates personal information based on a lawful change of name, social security number or federal employment authorization document.

Contract Labor Liability: Employers may now be liable to errors and omissions committed by employment agencies or PEO’s with whom they do business, when those agencies or PEO’s either don’t pay employees properly or don’t provide workers compensation insurance.

Safety: Hospitals must adopt workplace violence prevention plans to protect employees. This will become part of the employer’s Illness and Injury Prevention Plan.

Background Checks: Generally, contractors who bid on state contracts may not ask construction applicants about their criminal history pre-interview. They must wait and see if the candidate is otherwise qualified and then make an informed decision. In addition, certain companies that provide services to children must notify parents or guardians about their criminal background check policies.

Time off for Emergency Duty/Training: If you have employees who may be called upon for emergency duty, there have been some expansions in the definitions of these workers to include Reserve Peace Officers and Emergency/911 Rescue Personnel.

AB60 Drivers Licenses: A new law allows undocumented workers to obtain CA drivers licenses for driving purposes only, not ID. These licenses are not usable for I-9 employment eligibility verification.

IRS Mileage Rate: Going up to $0.575 in 2015.

REMINDERS

NLRB: With union representation on the decline, the National Labor Relations Board is targeting non-union employers who (they believe) are restricting employees from organizing. Handbooks and policies should not restrict employees from discussing wages or working conditions, or attempt to over-govern behavior outside of the workplace.

Severance and Arbitration Agreements: We strongly recommend updating severance agreements with an employment attorney as many laws have changed. Also, many attorneys no longer recommend arbitration agreements, so if you have one, you may want to review with an attorney to see if it needs updating or removal. HR Matrix can coordinate the analysis and evaluation of your current practices through our preferred law firms. Contact us if you would like us to help you with this.

Workers’ Compensation – Medical Network Providers – If your workers’ compensation policy is an MPN plan (and most small employers’ plans are) then there are notification and posting requirements. One of the areas we frequently see missed is making sure all employees know where their local clinic is located should they experience an on-the-job injury. With an MPN plan, employees need to go to the network doctor. Contact your broker for more information on MPN compliance and clinic locations.

REMINDER OF 2015 DEADLINES

  • OSHA 300 Log: Most employers who had over ten employees during the prior year must post the annual OSHA 300A summary, by February 1st.
  • EEO-100: Most employers with over 100 employees and federal contractors with over 50 employees must complete on the EEO-1 survey annually. The deadline is usually 9/30 and the survey is now online.

The HR Matrix can help you with employee handbook or policy reviews and updates to include these 2015 law changes as well as any other changes or new policies that need to be added.

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